The Davos World Economic Forum recently came to an end. It was the first in two and a half years – and the first that took place in front of a green backdrop instead of white splendor. Just as the May sun melted the snow, the climate crisis, Corona and war have swept away the core beliefs of three decades of market-driven globalization. Above all, the mantra: the market will take care of it.
The satellite image of the container ships lying in the roadstead off Shanghai became a symbol for globally disrupted supply chains. Delays and shortages of materials, from chips to wiring harnesses to lumber, are driving inflation in both Europe and the US today.
The corona crisis shows how little resilient a global economy is that has concentrated the production of pharmaceuticals and medical products in just a few locations for cost reasons. And how little an unregulated market is able to distribute essential goods such as vaccines in a pandemic-friendly manner. While in the rich North vaccines beyond the expiry date are destroyed unused, they are missing in the Global South. New mutations are threatening there, with which the vaccines could also lose their effectiveness in the north.
But the greatest market failure, the climate crisis, is affecting more and more countries. In India, temperatures rose to up to 50 degrees in May. In Sri Lanka, heat waves and rising energy prices led to riots and the overthrow of the government. A similar development is imminent in the Middle East due to drought and lack of wheat deliveries.
The wheat crisis is due to the failure of transports from Ukraine and Russia – a consequence of Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression. But the development of the wheat price, which has been devastating for many societies, also has speculative reasons: many times the global wheat is traded on the stock exchanges worldwide. This keeps the demand and thus the price high.
Obviously, the market does not regulate everything. The world is facing a new famine. The wheat crisis triggered by Putin is increasing tensions between the Global North and South. The fact that rich Europe, trying to emancipate itself from Russia, is entering the world market as a massive consumer of fossil energies is keeping the price of oil high and driving up coal and gas prices. So tensions with the Global South continue to grow.
The grand coalition’s belief that a power like Russia aiming to revise the European order could be transformed through trade was naïve. At least as naïve is the idea that the current alliance of 141 states in the UN General Assembly against Russia’s aggression will remain stable in the long term. Climate crisis, Corona and war threaten to erode the alliance.
Europe must learn: The world is facing a redistribution of power and spheres of influence. Globally, multilateral rules count less and less. Instead, Europe is faced with the question of whether it wants to be an independent pole in a multipolar world or whether it has to submit to another pole. Europe’s answers to the challenges of the climate crisis, corona and war will decide this question.
It is morally imperative and in our interest to bring the war in Ukraine to an end quickly. Such an end will only be permanent if it is not a question of a ceasefire dictated by Moscow. In return, Europe is delivering weapons to Kyiv and weakening Russia through sanctions.
A speedy end to the war is also the goal of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. But this goal is incompatible with embroiling the Kremlin in a long war of attrition, as demanded by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, designed to weaken Russia enough to prevent Ukraine-style aggression from being repeated elsewhere. Such a strategy would leave the Ukrainians bleeding for a proxy geopolitical war. Neither Europe nor the USA would be the winners, but China.
At the same time, China is getting on the defensive with its policy of hard lockdowns in economic metropolises such as Shenzhen and Shanghai. Beijing’s disastrous omicron governance has damaged the Communist Party’s image at home. The disrupted supply chains and the global slump in demand are jeopardizing China’s already low growth targets.
Politically, China’s leadership is being forced to exercise caution. Contrary to their expectations, the “decadent” West has closed down and started determinedly to decouple Russia from its markets. This is forcing Beijing to recalibrate its “boundless friendship” with Moscow. China meanders between verbal support for Putin’s “military operation” and anticipatory obedience so as not to be suspected of undermining US or European sanctions.
In this situation, the European Union must now make a serious attempt to overcome war, corona and the climate crisis. This is only possible through a political shaping of globalization – a globalization 2.0. This is not a rejection of the market, but of its absolute priority over regulations. Trade and investment must be free, but only within the framework of a set of rules geared towards climate protection and human rights.
Globalization 2.0 means living up to the responsibility of the Global North. Therefore, parallel to the decoupling from Russia’s fossil sources, the demand pressure on the energy markets must be reduced. But above all: if a hunger crisis is to be averted, we need billions in humanitarian aid as well as clarity about the war aims in Ukraine. Military aid and coercive economic measures by the EU, the USA and the G7 should be geared towards ending the war with an armistice that is acceptable to Ukraine.
The end of naivety after the “turning point” of February 24 also requires a realistic view of the domestic political situation in the USA. It is not at all out of the question that Trumpism will return there in 2024. Today the US is our partner and competitor. But it could be that Washington will then treat Europe as “worse than China” again.
In order to counter this, Europe must become more resilient – through political and economic cooperation and the resettlement of strategic industries from semiconductors to pharmaceuticals to photovoltaics. For financing, European bonds will have to be the rule and no longer the exception.
If, in a new version of Trumpism, the nuclear guarantee for Europe against aggressive powers becomes brittle, the honeymoon among the 30 NATO members, currently only disturbed by Turkey, will be a thing of the past. Europe will then have to face the question of whether the necessary nuclear deterrence will be organized by a European pillar in NATO or under the umbrella of the European Union.